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Salt Lake man charged in brutal stabbing, sexual assault

Salt Lake City police say a homeless woman was critically injured in a stabbing and found unconscious in an alley near 280 E. Hampton Ave on April 21. A Salt Lake man was charged Thursday in connection the stabbing and sexual assault of the woman.

Salt Lake City police say a homeless woman was critically injured in a stabbing and found unconscious in an alley near 280 E. Hampton Ave on April 21. A Salt Lake man was charged Thursday in connection the stabbing and sexual assault of the woman. (Jeffrey Dahdah, KSL-TV)


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SALT LAKE CITY — An investigation into a woman found naked and critically injured with multiple stab wounds in an alley has resulted in criminal charges against a Salt Lake man.

Dontel Nako Cowans, 22, was charged Thursday in 3rd District Court with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault, first-degree felonies; two counts of mayhem and obstructing justice, second-degree felonies.

A possible motive for the attack has not been revealed. The charging documents note, however, that the woman was homeless and police "learned that (Cowans) has an issue with homeless people and does not like them."

On April 21, Salt Lake police were called about 7:30 a.m. to an area near 280 E. Hampton Ave. on a report of a woman who was found lying naked in an alley and "thought to be dead."

Police found the unconscious 48-year-old woman along with a 2002 Hyundai Accent with no license plate in the alley. Inside the vehicle, officers found blood on both front seats, with the passenger seat having more blood than the other, according to the charges. Blood was also found on parts of the vehicle's exterior as well as a fence that borders two yards.

"There were impressions in the green foliage that appeared to be caused by a person's body laying there. A blood trail led around the curve in the alley where a pile of clothes and a blanket were located that were on the ground, dirty and had blood on them," the charges state.

The woman's injuries included several stab wounds to her face and an eye injury "for which she will not be able to see out of," in addition to injuries to her genitals, the charges state. As of Thursday, she remained "in an unconscious state and is still intubated" and is currently on life support, police say.

Detectives said they learned the car was recently sold to Cowans. A search warrant was served at his home — just a few blocks from where the woman was found — where several items of potential evidence were collected, including a pair of boots that appeared to have blood on them. The boots also "matched a bloody shoe print" left at the scene, according to the charges.

A bloody fingerprint at the scene was also matched to Cowans, the charges allege.

Prosecutors have requested that Cowans be held in the Salt Lake County Jail without bail pending trial.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.

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